Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

How Will Assad Fall?

by Elliott Abrams Monday, August 29, 2011

It is easy to say that with Qaddafi gone, the next vicious regime to fall is that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, but realists and pessimists have rightly asked “how exactly does that happen?”

That’s a fair question, because the Assad regime has yet to crack and none of the previous models—Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya—can work the same way in Syria. In my view, there are two possibilities that head the list. Read more »

Qatar and Bahrain

by Elliott Abrams Friday, August 26, 2011

My post yesterday about Qatar’s support for the crushing of popular demonstrations in Bahrain has occasioned a fair amount of angry comment (here and on Twitter). My point was that when Qatar supports the call for democracy and free elections in Libya but assists in the smashing of demonstrations in Bahrain it is pursuing a foreign policy detached from principle. Read more »

How Brave Is Qatar?

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, August 25, 2011

Qatar has acquired a reputation for sharp, quick responses to crises in the Arab world and for modern and unorthodox thinking.

It is undeserved.

Qatari diplomatic activity is designed to advance the interests of the tiny country and of its ruling family. Its adoption of the Libyan opposition, for example, is not based on any principle (such as liberty, democracy, or free elections), for the Qatari government and its TV station, Al Jazeera, have been notably silent about the crisis in Bahrain. There, they have backed the royal family and the Saudi-led GCC armed presence. Read more »

Whose Brilliant Idea Was That UN Vote?

by Elliott Abrams Wednesday, August 24, 2011

For years the Palestinian leadership has taken legal advice from a law professor at Oxford University, Guy Goodwin-Gill. But now it seems that they forgot to consult him before demanding a UN vote on Palestinian statehood. In a recent legal brief for the leadership, the good professor demolishes the arguments for UN recognition. Read more »

Good Fences Will Make Good Neighbors

by Elliott Abrams Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Israelis are increasingly worried about terror attacks from Sinai and rightly so. The area is quickly becoming the kind of ungoverned space that provides terrorists with their greatest opportunities. As a recent Financial Times article put it, Egypt has for decades engaged in “reckless neglect of the Sinai.” This was one of Mubarak’s “gravest sins” for “on his watch, state control over the country’s eastern gateway was dangerously eroded and its people’s relationship with central government became marked by deep mistrust and often hostility.” Read more »

Palestinians at the UN: the Copper Lining

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Palestinian Authority/PLO continues its march toward a UN General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood. At the least, the Palestinians’ status may be elevated from that of a “non-state entity” observer to a “non-member state” observer.

This development may have very negative consequences. For one thing, the text of the resolution itself may become a problem in future negotiations. If the resolution, for example, declares that the borders of “Palestine” are those of the Jordanian-controlled West Bank as of June 3, 1967 (plus Gaza), negotiating territorial compromises may become even more difficult for Palestinian leaders. How can they give away a part of what the United Nations General Assembly has said is “Palestine?”

It is also possible that violence may result from the UN vote. If the Palestinians decide to begin very large demonstrations (one example: having thousands of protesters surround isolated settlements), no one can be sure whether the Palestinian and Israeli police will in the end be able to control such confrontations without any violence—from Palestinians, settlers, or the police themselves. Even the new head of the Arab League now has his doubts: “The unilateral appeal to the U.N. Security Council and U.N. General Assembly could be a very dangerous move for the Palestinians during this period and I propose that Abbas reconsider the handling of the matter,” said Nabil El Araby.

And American legislators have already predicted that if the PLO goes forward with its plans, Congress will cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority. This assistance is in the hundreds of millions of dollars and will not be easily replaced, for European donors are tapped out and Arab donors are stingy.

Read more »

The Ground Shifts in the Middle East

by Elliott Abrams Monday, August 22, 2011

How quickly the ground has shifted in the Middle East. The apparent fall of Tripoli suggests that the Gaddafi regime will not last long, and this must send shivers down the spine of the cousins who run the Assad mafia in Damascus. For once Gaddafi is gone all attention will turn to the remaining Arab despotism, and the opposition to Assad will grow in energy and confidence. Now is the time to turn up the pressure and make Assad fall sooner rather than later, for every additional week means scores more Syrians murdered in the streets of the country. Then attention will have to turn to the next act: the one in which we see, in Tunisia and Egypt, in Libya and Syria, if decent, stable, democratic governments can be built. It now looks as if the Arab Spring was the lead-in to a hot summer for the remaining tyrants. The issue we all face for the winter is what the United States can do to help avoid chaos or repression in those countries as they seek to build new political systems. Read more »

Quartet Statements—and Quartet Silences

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The last time the Middle East Quartet met, on July 11, it was unable even to issue a statement about the key issue before it—the Palestinian effort to get the UN General Assembly and Security Council to declare Palestine a state and admit it to membership. Nor has the Quartet  been able to issue a statement about the attacks the Assad regime has been carrying out this week against Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, which have led thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes. Read more »